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Officers Train to Help Mentally Ill

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Officers in the Rogue Valley are working to better understand and help the mentally ill.

This week, members from every law enforcement agency in southern Oregon are doing what’s called a ‘Crisis Intervention Training’ or CIT. Back in February, several officers and the Jackson County Mental Health department went to Salt Lake City, Utah to train in a nationally known program called “The Memphis Model.” After months of preparation, they’re bringing back what they learned to teach others.

On Friday, officers did some scenario based training. Situations ranged from an intoxicated Vietnam veteran to a child who did not take his medication.

“In this class, there are officers with less than 6 years of experience to 20 years,” said Medford Police Lt. Curtis Whipple.

Along with the officers, the Medford police chief volunteered to be in the first class.

“I believe in this program and I want to have some skin in the game. I want to be here, I want to see what we teach,” said Medford Police Chief Tim George.

Since Monday, officers heard from doctors, mental health workers and even put themselves in a mentally ill person’s shoes. They listened to voices for a few hours to simulate someone suffering from schizophrenia. They were told a story and had to remember it.

“Honestly, it was disturbing. It really is. I think some of these people have to deal with and go through, if you don’t feel empathy, there’s  something wrong with you,” said Medford Police Sgt. Brent Mak.

The Jackson County Mental Health Department is hoping to change how officers respond to a mental illness call. Officials are working to start up a mobile response team, which is consisted of an officer and a health care worker.

In the next 12 months, every person from the Medford Police Department will be CIT certified and in the next few years, every other law enforcement agency in southern Oregon will be trained.